Hachette Defends 'Shock' as Retailers Pull Premiere Issue

Blames Photographer of Disputed Cover Pic of Swaying Stores

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Tower Records yesterday become the latest retailer to pull Shock magazine from its shelves because of the dispute over a photo on its cover, but publisher Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. is striking back today with a letter to merchants defending the title.
The battle over 'Shock' has spilled into retail aisles.
The battle over 'Shock' has spilled into retail aisles.

The activity is just the latest stage of a battle that erupted after Shock hit stands May 30 with a cover photo taken by Michael Yon, a blogger and former Green Beret who had not authorized its use. Hachette called the infringement innocent -- it had gotten the picture from a photo agency -- and the parties reached a settlement in principle, but Mr. Yon called that deal off a week later.

Three retailers
Tower plans to carry future issues of Shock, but another chain that pulled it, Brooks Eckerd, hasn't decided that question yet, and a third, Rite Aid, said it will not.

"We had many, many complaints from our customers over the photo on the front," said Helene Bisson, a spokeswoman for Brooks Eckerd parent Jean Coutu Group.

Rite Aid spokeswoman Judy Cook said its decision was not related to Mr. Yon's photo. "We pulled it before the big picture incident based on customer feedback," she said, confirming a report by Photo District News.

Mr. Yon intensified his appeal to the public after the agreement with Hachette collapsed. Through a website at http://michaelyon-online.com/shockmag.php, he urged "ordinary people" to call distributors asking them to remove the magazine from their stores. Rite Aid and Brooks Eckerd are listed under the "Good Guys" for having removed the issue; a "Bad Guys" list is planned for those that refuse.

But Hachette President-CEO Jack Kliger said Mr. Yon and his backers are not Shock's target audience and should not try to restrict the magazine's circulation.

Readers are not complaining
"There's no question that their efforts to convince retailers that it is consumers who are upset at the issue have succeeded in some cases, even though that's not what the fact is," Mr. Kliger said. "The fact is, these are not complaints being made by Shock readers -- these are complaints being made by Michael Yon's followers. There's a big difference."

Mr. Kliger also denied Mr. Yon's assertion that Shock used the photo, which shows a U.S. soldier cradling an Iraqi girl injured by a car bomb, to dishonor American troops. The Yon photo appears inside the issue as part of an article comparing the Iraq conflict with the Vietnam War.

"We invite people to take a look at the story and decide for themselves whether we didn't honor American troops," Mr. Kliger said. "That was not our intent and I don't think that's what the story did. We would like the judgment to be made by readers, not by self-appointed censors."
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